Apple’s Lightning connector has been part of the iPhone for about 10 years, or most of the iconic smartphone’s 15-year existence. But as the European Union agreed, its days may be numberedOn all phones by fall 2024.
The decision has fueled speculation about the iPhone’s much-rumored switch to USB-C. But there is another way Apple could choose. What if Apple releases a new iPhone??
This may sound illogical, but hear me out. Take a look at the iPhone’s trajectory when it comes to wireless functionality, and it appears that Apple is gradually laying the groundwork for a completely wireless iPhone. the success ofApple focuses on new types of wireless connections all point in this direction.
The move toward an iPhone without physical ports would build on the vision Apple laid out nearly six years ago when it announced the iPhone 7, the first model without a headphone jack. Apple employee Phil Schiller, who previously served as senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said. “There’s no point in tying ourselves to our mobile devices with cables,” he said, explaining the iPhone’s move away from the standard headphone jack. (Of course, Apple introduced the first-generation AirPods during the same launch.)
There’s no word on whether Apple will make a change as drastic as eliminating the charging port altogether. Apple will certainly face backlash in doing so, and there are still technical limitations that could prevent wireless charging from becoming a viable full-time alternative to wired charging. But the new rules of the EU, as additional pressure from US senators Elizabeth Warren and improvements in wireless protocols certainly make the case for a portless iPhone stronger than ever.
Will Apple release a completely wireless iPhone?
Apple never discusses upcoming products until they’re ready to launch them, so it’s impossible to know exactly what the future holds for the iPhone. But previous reports and patent filings suggest that Apple has at least thought about how a truly wireless iPhone would work.
For example, an Apple patent application filed in 2019 describes an iPhone with an all-glass body that can be charged wirelessly through its screen. Apple has also filed other patents related to wireless charging, which could keep the portless iPhone going if the technology ever sees the light of day. One such patent involves a MacBook design with a wireless charger built directly into the keyboard deck, which could make wireless charging more convenient.
But a research note from TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, an industry watcher known for his Apple predictions, pointed to the idea of a portless iPhone in 2019. At the time, Kuo said that Apple could remove the Lightning port from the top spot. According to reports from CNBC, 9to5Mac and MacRumors, the iPhone will end in 2021. Bloomberg also reported in May 2022 that Apple has been working on iPhone models without charging ports in recent years.
However, Kuo’s prediction did not come true. Every model in the iPhone 13 series, which will go on sale in the fall of 2021, has a Lightning port. Reports of a portless iPhone have also been few and far between since then, with recent reports Kuodan and Bloomberg suggests that Apple may thrive .
iPhone becomes less dependent on wired connections
It’s unclear whether Apple will ever release a truly wireless iPhone. But what is clear is that the iPhone is increasingly well equipped to work without any cables.
“There are fewer and fewer systems that are actually 100% wired,” Juniper Research head of research Nick Maynard said in a previous interview.
debut ofIn 2016, it was perhaps the biggest catalyst for the disconnection of wired connections. While Apple’s decision to ditch the headphone jack was somewhat controversial at the time, the industry quickly embraced the move to wireless headphones.
After Apple said goodbye to the headphone jack, many other smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung, followed suit. According to market research firm Canalys, global shipments of true wireless headphones are now expected to grow 17% to 68.2 million units in the first quarter of 2022 alone. AirPods are the best sellers.
But the popularity of AirPods is not the only sign of the iPhone’s independence from wires. Apple also launched a new wireless connection mechanism for the iPhone in 2020 called MagSafe..
MagSafe uses a series of magnets to more easily attach wireless chargers and other accessories to the back of compatible iPhone models, not to be confused with the MacBook charger of the same name. MagSafe chargers can also power the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 more efficiently than standard Qi wireless chargers. The iPad’s Smart Connector, a series of flat circular metal contacts on the back of some iPad Pro models, is another example of Apple’s efforts to make its products less dependent on cables.
New technologies like ultra-broadband have also made it easier for the iPhone to connect wirelessly with other devices. Like its ultra-broadband counterpart, it’s a wireless protocol that uses radio signals to pinpoint a device’s location.. The technology is primarily used to help locate a lost iPhone and find other iPhones faster when using AirDrop. Wireless data transfer is also the norm for many people thanks to cloud services and file sharing features like AirDrop, further reducing the need for a Lightning port.
Problems that come with a completely wireless iPhone
The biggest argument against a portless iPhone is that wireless chargers still don’t work as quickly as regular wired chargers. Standard Qi wireless chargers can charge an iPhone’s battery at 7.5 watts, while Apple’s MagSafe connector can charge up to 15 watts. But iPhone 8 and newer models support faster charging, which charges the device’s battery to 50% in 30 minutes. But to get those speeds, you’ll need a wired connection to a suitable 20-watt power adapter. It’s certainly an improvement over wireless charging, but it’s still slower than the charging speeds offered by Android rivals like OnePlus.
If Apple releases an iPhone without the ports, those who don’t own a wireless charger may have to buy one separately. Apple stopped including power adapters in iPhone packaging with the iPhone 12, but still offers Lightning cables in the box. Apple’s MagSafe charger costs $39, but the company also has non-Apple chargers with the official MagSafe designation. However, you also need a 20-watt USB-C power adapter to get the fastest charging speeds. (Apple says power supply will vary depending on power adapter capacity and system conditions).
Even with these caveats, wireless charging is common in modern smartphones. Compatible chargers are also not as expensive as they were five years ago, bolstering the case for a completely wireless iPhone. For example, third-party wireless chargers can be found on Amazon for under $20.
But Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, believes there are bigger improvements to be made when it comes to wireless phone charging. It envisions a future where smartphones can be charged completely wirelessly without ever having to connect to a charger.
Munster cautioned that his firm is meeting with private companies working on such technologies, but that it is in the early stages. Apple has also filed a patent application that hints at what it considers technology that could charge iPhones via Wi-Fi. Ossia, a Washington-based tech company, has also developed a charging system that it claims can power electronic devices remotely using RF antenna technology.
“Imagine the goal of never having to think about charging your phone,” Munster said in a previous interview.
If Apple is focusing on true wireless charging, it probably won’t be coming to the iPhone anytime soon. It’s also unclear whether Apple will ever release an entirely port-less iPhone, as recent reports from Bloomberg and Kuo point to USB-C as the most likely alternative to Lightning.
Apple also recently backtracked on its stance on reducing the number of connections on MacBook Pro laptops. The 2021 MacBook Pro has an SD card slot and an HDMI port, so there ismore than we’ve seen in Apple laptops over the years. (The newer 13-inch M2-powered MacBook Pro only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports.)
But the idea of an iPhone that can work without wires certainly matches Apple’s 2016 vision. As Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive said when describing the design of the headphone jack-less iPhone 7, the company’s “obsession remains to continually simplify and improve.” If done right, an iPhone without a charging port can do this.